What Is Shingles And How Do You Treat It?

Written by Andrea Anita on June 28, 2020 — fact checked by Sophia Randerson

Shingles causes a red rash called a shingles rash, but what does it actually mean, and how can it be prevented?

The shingles virus, which causes the shingles rash, is known as herpes zoster. The shingles virus, which causes the shingles rash, is known as herpes zoster.

The shingles virus — which also causes the herpes zoster virus — is a virus that causes the condition known as shingles.

The shingles rash is caused by the varicella zoster virus (vz), a small viral particle that infects your nerve cells.

It attaches itself to the nerve cells and causes the symptoms associated with shingles, such as pain, joint stiffness, and a tingling sensation.

The shingles rash can usually occur after around 1 in 5 people over 40 years of age who have been exposed to the shingles virus.

When zoster starts to cause shingles, the virus will split into fragments, or granulomas, which are inflammation inside nerve cells.

Varicella zoster infection is one of the most common infectious diseases affecting people worldwide. Roughly 500,000 Americans are affected by shingles every year, and the rash is most commonly found in healthy adults.

Untreated, shingles can result in chronic pain.

Who's at risk?

Having shingles is not an entirely harmless condition; the virus — because it has spread — can damage the nerves that control the skin and cause nerve pain.

Varicella zoster infection is the most common cause of chronic shingles pain in the United States, with more than 650,000 cases annually.

However, in adults with no prior history of shingles, the condition can be brought on by other factors, such as the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) or herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1).

In adults without symptoms of the shingles rash, the shingles rash — which is basically a red, raised rash that starts close to the palms of the hands and spreads to the soles of the feet and to the upper chest — appears as a secondary rash.

How do you treat shingles?

The shingles rash usually starts around 10 days after a person first develops the shingles virus and ends around 10 days after symptoms become apparent.

Typically, shingles treatment is done by suppositories containing the shingles virus — in the form of a granuloma — a few hours or days after symptoms start.

A dose of drug called prednisone can also be used to help control the pain associated with shingles.

In elderly adults, shingles treatment is more likely to include antiviral medication, with injectable drugs such as zidovudine and raloxifene being more common than oral drugs.

Varicella zoster is usually treated with a combination of antiviral drugs called interferon, but it is important to note that interferon is associated with elevated heart rates.

Alternatively, the shingles rash can be managed by supportive care, including management of pain, behavioral adjustments to prevent infection, and clinical vigilance.

Other side effects of the shingles virus can include fever, headache, and tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.

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Written by Andrea Anita on June 28, 2020 — fact checked by Sophia Randerson

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